The Complete Magazine on Open Source

How Fortune 500 is embracing open source technology

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The ninth annual Future of Open Source Survey 2015 says around 78 percent of companies around the world are using open source software for running their vital operations. This is a significant indicator of the large-scale application of open source software (OSS) in the current technological landscape. This write-up talks about various advantages that OSS offers, other than cost benefit, to big companies along with examples of its successful implementation in the likes of Google, Facebook, IBM, Toyota and others. You also here get to know about various job opportunities that one can apply to in this domain.

15 years back there were very few who believed the power of open source. There was a huge lobby that ostracised use of open source and considered it second class to proprietary software. Ever since the proponents of open source technology have been at loggerheads with the promoters of proprietary software. These were the times when open source was mostly found in startups and small corporates, mainly because of two prime reasons — it was free, and these small companies were almost always low on capital. Now, the technology world looks a lot different. The biggest names that we know of are embracing open source with both hands.

Whether it is Microsoft, which plans to move its SQL server on Linux platform in 2017 or Facebook that most recently released open source software for its surround 360 camera, there has been a consistent and an ever-increasing move towards open source technology by the biggest names in the industry. The question worth asking here is why and how these former opponents and critics have now become adopters of this technology.

Why this shift?

The advantages of open source are well known. So following are some more reasons why it is becoming a favorite of big firms.

Security

With the threat of a data breach looming over, security is a major concern for any company, especially if it deals with critical consumer data. Over the years, Linux has presented itself as an equally secure, if not more as an alternative to Windows or Mac. Fears over the security of data while working in an open source environment are unreasonable. Some experts have pointed out repeatedly in the past that Linux is, in fact, more secure owing to a number of reasons such as account privilege assignment, transparency of code among others.

Cost

Intense competition has led companies to take a relook at their expenses and do a cost restructuring. If the same task can be achieved using a secure and bug-free alternative without adding up the huge licensing cost, who wouldn’t want to dive in? Open source has always been a more cost-effective alternative to proprietary software

Future ready

A huge developer base is constantly working to patch and improve the open source technology. This turns out to be the biggest selling point. When a number of smart minds are collaborating, and anyone in the group is free to contribute code, the result is an open source product which is innovative and ahead of its time. Technology vendors also acknowledge that by using open source as a platform for some of their projects, they stand to gain a lot from some of the greatest programming minds who can help in the development of a future-ready solution for the greater good of the customer and the entire community. This rarely happens in a competitive commercial software market.

Cloud and big data: The future is open source

Big data, cloud and IoT are the most significant IT trends of this decade. Big data and cloud are particularly the biggest business buzzwords of the current time, and all the major enterprises are working hard to get ahead of the data curve. It would be notable to know that the biggest names in data are open source, with many of them belonging to the same Apache family (such as Apache Spark and Hadoop). The growth of these open source systems can also be related to the shortage of qualified talent in the data science field as companies looking to expand their data science teams rapidly and work can easily do so through open sourcing it. Large companies like Facebook, Amazon and IBM are powered partially by Hadoop and other major firms are also paying close attention to open source solutions to make sure they don’t get left behind.

Earlier it was easy to think of open source software as a work of amateurs. But today, tech giants like IBM, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are the biggest contributors to big open source projects. For instance, Presto query engine was an in-house initiative of Facebook before it was released to the world and adopted by Netflix and AirBnB to handle back-end analytics tasks. In 2005, OIN or Open Invention Network was formed with a mission to protect and encourage development and use of open-source software.

OIN has presently eight members with names like Google, IBM, Red Hat, Philips and Sony. Toyota was the latest addition to this consortium. This is the surest indication of the growing number of companies, whether tech or automakers that consider open source software as the best possible option for providing many of their needed solutions. Engineers from over 70 companies collaborate together on the leading open source automotive software project, Automotive Grade Linux. The project has the backing of Honda, Nissan, Jaguar/Land Rover, Panasonic and semiconductor manufacturer, Intel. Need we say more about the credibility of the open source and how it is winning the war against the proprietary software manufacturers?